Amending the state Constitution to protect the voting rights of people labeled “mentally ill” is on the November 2nd ballot in Kansas. This is a subject that I have written about in a previous post, Changing The Kansas Constitution. The New England Comcast Network reported on this development with a story, Kansas amendment on voting rights advocated.
Supporters of a proposed Kansas constitutional amendment to protect the voting rights of the mentally ill acknowledge it hasn’t drawn organized opposition.
That’s the good news. It’s potential for defeat, citing “stigma” as a reason, that’s the bad news.
The amendment requires approval by a simple majority of voters Nov. 2. It would strike language in the Kansas Constitution allowing lawmakers to deny voting rights to people with mental illness.
If the vote isn’t attained, and that is a possibility, too, it’s still the uphill struggle for the human rights and civil liberties of people on the receiving end of psychiatry that it has always been.
Kansas doesn’t prohibit voting by people with mental illness, but supporters say the change is an important symbolic step.
I would say it’s more than a symbolic step. There is language in the Kansas constitution suggesting that legislators should have the power to take the right to vote away from people who have been labeled “mentally ill”. In singling out one particular segment of the population, this language is highly prejudicial, suggesting that it is alright to deprive people of their right to vote due to a psychiatric label, and it should be removed from the Kansas Constitution.
It’s not alright. It’s no more alright than suggesting that people should have their right to vote taken away from them on account of the color of their skin. Let’s hope the voters in Kansas do the right thing in this instance, and recognize the need for a revision.
Update: October 17, 2010
An opinion piece in the Dodge City Daily Globe, Vote ‘Yes’ on amendment question 2, reveals a little of the history of the Kansas Constitution.
The Kansas Constitution used to prohibit people under guardianship, those who were “not competent,” or those who were “insane” from either voting or holding office. In 1974, voters removed that prohibition and replaced it with language allowing the Legislature to pass laws to “exclude persons from voting because of mental illness or commitment to a jail or penal institution.”
Somebody at the Dodge City Daily Globe got it! This article also gives a very good reason why this wording needs to be changed.
Because “mental illness” isn’t defined, it could apply to more than 500,000 Kansans, according to Karen McNally, director of community support services at Comcare of Sedgwick County. That could include people with depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder or veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.
Thank you Dodge City Daily Globe for printing this opinion piece. The freedoms of your citizens are at risk under the present wording of the Kansas Constitution. A few more opinion pieces, editorials, and articles of this sort around your state might serve to help wake up the state of Kansas on this subject.